3D audio set to boom as DTS:X takes on Dolby Atmos

posted on Friday, 10th April 2015 by Steve May

home cinema  Dolby Atmos  DTS:X 

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DTS has formally announced DTS:X, a next-generation, object-based sound technology that “replicates a real-world sound environment” both in the cinema and at home. What makes the DTS proposition different from rivals Dolby Atmos and Auro-3D is that there’s no prescribed speaker configuration or even a specific number of audio channels.

“Until recently, sound in movie theaters and in our homes has been dictated by a standardised speaker layout,” says Jon Kirchner, chairman and CEO of DTS. “Through the use of object-based audio, DTS:X is able to scale immersive soundtrack presentations across a wide range of playback systems, from efficient to extravagant, while staying true to the content creator’s vision. This approach delivers the most authentic three-dimensional audio experience ever.”

For installers, this means they have the flexibility to place speakers according to individual space and design requirements. For consumers, DTS:X promises the precision of object-based surround sound, without the complication of retro-fitting additional ceiling or upfiring speakers. Metadata-based spatial mapping renders the ideal 3D sound image to whatever speaker layout exists, including up-firing Dolby enabled Atmos speakers.

DTS:X is actually based on MDA (Multi Dimensional Audio), a license fee-free, open platform for object-based audio. “MDA is DTS' license fee-free contribution to the professional audio community for mixing and storage of immersive audio content,” says Kirchner. “MDA fits perfectly within today’s production workflow, and a combination of MDA and DTS:X provides a complete end-to-end workflow, from creation to exhibition.”

The first DTS:X home AV receivers are promised this summer. Confirmed hardware partners include Denon, which will provide a firmware upgrade for its AVR-X7200W, and Marantz, which will do the same for its AV8802; Onkyo, Integra, Yamaha and Pioneer will launch new models. Onkyo says it is unable to firmware update its current Atmos fleet for the format. Supporting processors comprise the P200 from Steinway Lyngdorf, the Theta Digital Casablanca Iva and Trinnov Audio Altitude32. DSP providers include Cirrus Logic, Analog Devices and Texas Instruments. Hardware will typically offer up to 11.2 speaker output channels, with support for up to 32 speaker locations.

DTS:X is fully backwards compatible with DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreams and speaker layouts, and will remap stereo, 5.1 or 7.1 content depending on the speaker configuration of any given room. Indeed, the DTS speaker remapping engine supports any speaker configuration within a hemispherical layout. It also offers additional features, such as individual object level control – for example, dialogue can be boosted in the mix independent of other elements. The DTS:X decoder supports DVD, Blu-ray and all file formats.

The platform also fits into a high resolution audio ecosystem. It supports 96k for object mixes and 24-bit 192kHz for stereo and multi-channel mixes. Of course, what’s missing from the DTS:X announcement is software support. There’s no talk yet of studio partnerships, or any indication what will be the first Blu-ray discs will be. DTS will say only that content tools are currently being evaluated by studios.

Also read:
Steinway Lyngdorf confirms DTS:X support for P200
DTS outs DTS:X object-based audio system at CES 2015
Dolby Atmos: Installing the science of sound

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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